Pre-Release Review: Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

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5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodnight June is June’s story. June inherits from her great aunt Ruby a small, cozy children’s bookstore – Bluebird Books, where June spent her happiest moments as a child and learned to love reading. As a 35 year old, June is vice president of a large bank and in charge of foreclosing many small businesses. She has few important people in her life, anxiety problems, and a severe lack of satisfaction with herself. When she inherits Bluebird Books, June goes home to Seattle for the first time in 5 years and begins to reevaluate her life. She discovers a scavenger hunt that her aunt Ruby left for her in the bookstore of letters between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown that explain the origin of Goodnight Moon and renew June’s passion for the bookstore. June discovers what it is like to be on the opposite side of the foreclosing business while she is trying to raise funds to save the bookstore, all with the help of the charming Gavin who owns the Italian restaurant next door.

I absolutely 100 percent love when an author shows his/her fangirl/fanboy side… And in this case, Sarah Jio’s fangirl flag is waving hard. The story behind the popular children’s classic Goodnight Moon is unknown because Margaret Wise Brown died shortly after writing it. I can tell that Sarah Jio truly loved Goodnight Moon because she uses so much imagination and heart to develop a very plausible origin of Goodnight Moon and uses the letters to tell the story with passion and creativity.

Also, June’s story is one that we can all identify with and could ultimately stand alone as its own story. She has to make the choice between living a life with passion or complacency. She has to forgive, and she learns to love. And she also discovers a few things she didn’t know about herself. Yes, it’s somewhat “chick flicky”, but its inspiring and sweet. I’m an avid hater of cookie cutter chick lit, so trust me when I say that this story is not that. Jane’s story is inspiring and leaves you contemplating your own dreams.

Right now is a time of major change in my life with moving and finding new job, etc., so I feel it was the perfect time to read this book. I probably a little biased since in the past year, I’ve somehow developed a dream of owning an independent bookstore and hosting authors/holding events to inspire budding readers. Reading is and always has been a huge part of my life, so I love to see that there are others who are still so inspired by reading and would rather pick up a book than a game or show on their iPad. I think Goodnight June is Sarah Jio’s confession to also being one of these people and her charge to go do something about it.

I literally blazed through Goodnight June in less than a day. It’s an easy read and would be perfect for sitting outside on a lazy summer day. And the great news is that its release date is May 27 – TOMORROW!!! So you only have to wait 2 short hours.. or 1 if you’re on the east coast. Ready. Set. Go.

I don’t think I’ve done it justice, but if you just go read it you’ll see what I mean. Thank you Sarah Jio for such a beautiful and inspiring story. It’s been a while since I’ve read a something this great.

I’ve had a couple of other books by Sarah Jio on my radar for a while, but this is the first one I’ve read. I’ll definitely be moving her other books up on my list.

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NetGalley Surprise: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

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3 of 5 stars

Imagine my shock when I received an email on Thursday saying that I was approved for Lost Lake on NetGalley.. and 3 months after I originally requested it (better late than never!!). I immediately sat there in shock, texted my husband to commemorate my first approval by a large publisher, then downloaded and began voraciously reading thinking I would be done reading it that night and post my super raving review. But it didn’t work out that way because… well, you’ll see…

Lantern lights are basically my favorite thing in the entire world.. they really do create a magical atmosphere, so I was a sucker for the cover of Lost Lake and had to read it from the moment I saw it. Plus, I’m a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen. And I loooove lakes. Like heat from a fire, the closer to water you are, the stronger you feel it.

What could go wrong?

Lost Lake is set in Suley, Georgia, a middle-of-nowhere town where Eby and George decide to settle and run a summer cabin getaway. Kate, Eby’s great-neice, recently widowed, wakes up one day after being “asleep” for a year after her husband’s death and realizes that she no longer recognizes herself. She has let her mother-in-law take over her life and almost stamp out her daughter, Devin’s, creative and wild spirit. Devin finds a post card sent long ago from Eby with Lost Lake on the front, and they take off almost immediately to revisit the “last best summer” that Kate had – lost Lake was where she left her heart and her childhood. Little does she know that Eby has almost lost hope for saving Lost Lake… what follows is a story about grieving and hoping that is full of friends and magic in a serene setting. Sounds great.. right?

But… Lost Lake just didn’t do it for me. I mean, it was a good story but it just didn’t suck me in like Allen’s other stories. A couple of reasons could be:

1. Garden Spells. It’s my favorite and pretty hard to live up to.
2. The galley version was not formatted extremely well (no paragraph breaks where there should have been, misplaced words, etc.) to the point where it was kind of distracting.
3. The characters were not nearly as deep as in Allen’s other work. I think there were just too many main characters that she was trying to develop.
4. There was not one explicit element of magic that the story centered on, so I spent the entire story trying to figure out what the magic actually was.
5. I was having a lot of book feels and getting sad while reading this because everyone’s husband is dead (not a spoiler, don’t worry… that’s what the story is based on from the very beginning.)
6. All the events just seemed so surface level.. there really is so much going on – on the side of the main plot is Wes and his grieving over his brother that he lost in a fire when he was younger, Lizette who has no voice box and burns all of the notes she writes out of fear that she will break someone’s heart again, Bulahdeen and Selma (the old ladies who are complete opposites of each other) both seeking a cure for their lonliness, the “alligator” that keeps popping up and talking to Devin, Lazlo who is pressuring Eby and Wes to sell, etc. – The separate storylines just didn’t come together so seamlessly, either.

All that being said, of course, I still really liked the story. Devin is spunky, strong, and carefree. She is the character that eventually drew me in and gave me the depth that I was looking for. She’s a dreamer. Most people never get what they want because they change what they want, change it to something more practical and reachable.

And George (Eby’s late husband that you learn about through her memories) is the kind of man that is truly and purely good. The kind that everyone wishes they knew and some are lucky enough to know. I wish there had been more about him. People couldn’t help but like George. His laugh was like a barrel of whiskey… Just looking at him, you could see that his capacity to love was as wide as the world.

The theme of moving forward is also very strong..
If we measured life in the things that happened, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

Overall, I think this book is worth a re-read – of a final version to see if my opinion changes.

ARC Review: Golden State by Michelle Richmond

Golden State

3 of 5 stars

I received a pre-release copy of this book through a GoodReads FirstReads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

When I first picked up Golden State I was immediately intrigued, a lot confused, and a little scared because the plot has so much work to do from the very beginning. The story is set in one day in a near future San Francisco, and it is definitely not your ordinary day. You are immediately thrown into the fire, and by the end of the first chapter you know the following:

1) Julie is a doctor. Julie’s sister is in labor, and she has to get to the other side of the city to deliver the baby.
2) Julie’s ex-friend/boyfriend/thing is angry and hostile and is holding people in her hospital hostage while demanding to speak with Julie.
3) Julie’s divorce may or may not be finalized today.
4) Today is the day of the vote for California to secede or not secede from the United States. Therefore, vandalism, robbery, rioting, police blockades, etc. abound.
5) Julie and her husband used to have a son, and Julie’s sister is the reason that they don’t anymore.

Ok. Breathe.

The story is told in 3 parts: Now, earlier that morning, and the back story. Each chapter switches to a different time all told from Julie’s point of view. Sounds confusing but really it’s not since the chapters are short and begin with which time frame you are in. I’ve never read any other books written this way, and in my opinion it was great organization (go editor!). It created a lot of suspense and really kept the story moving.

Throughout the story you learn how Julie met and fell in love with her husband, how they had a son, and how they lost him. You learn about her childhood in Mississippi and how she fulfilled her dreams of “escaping” the South to become a doctor. And you learn about her strained past relationship with her sister and the new relationship that develops.

To me, there are a lot of parallels between the author’s life (Richmond grew up in Laurel, MS and now lives in California) and Julie’s life, so I feel like she uses her character as a soap box in some parts – she paints a picture of the South being a place that everyone wants to escape (I love the South even though I no longer live there), and she uses the secession issue to portray her own political views. So the book seemed preachy in some parts, but not to an overwhelming extent.

Overall, this is a very entertaining read with a good but not too neatly wrapped up ending. However, the story was lacking in the emotion department until the very end. I just wasn’t quite as invested in the characters and their outcome as I wanted to be. I would say the book was mostly a sequence of events, although a very entertaining sequence of events.

So there you have it.. Golden State is released on Feb. 4 (MY BIRTHDAY!!) if you want to give it a shot.